Sunday, October 24, 2010

Salted Butter Break-Ups

There's something intimidating about actually meeting people whose work you admire. You spend so much time appreciating from afar, be it music or writing or cooking, and feel a kinship with the artist because their work resonates with you so deeply. You know you must have so many sensibilities in common, and when you meet, this shared bond will just somehow sing across the room. If you don't end up bff, you'll at least end up with a real heart-to-heart moment, perhaps an invitation for a drink.

But in reality, it seldom works that way. You finally push forward your book for an autograph, stammer something generic about how "I really like what you do," blush, and melt back into the crowd. Sigh. Occasionally there are moments, such as when you and your friends sneak into the after party for a live taping of your favorite radio show and are invited out for a surreal evening of drinks afterward. But for the most part, it's pretty nervous-making and seldom goes the way you rehearsed in your many, many daydreams. Which is all to say I didn't go see Dorie Greenspan when she was in town this week.

For those unfamiliar with her lovely work, Dorie Greenspan writes about baking and French food. She manages to keep an eye on both the smallest details of technique, and the almost incalculably large role of food in our lives. Greenspan is also the woman behind the delicious salted chocolate sablees which I de-glutinized for a recipe earlier this year. And although I chickened out of the live meeting, I continue to worship in my oven from afar. And so I present Dorie's salted butter break-ups.

These cookies are baked from a single slab of buttery dough, and then broken apart into chunks with your hands (which proves just as emotionally satisfying as it sounds, plus yields a variety of textures ranging from nicely tender center chunks to deliciously caramelized end bits). I usually pooh-pooh people who say they don't have time to make cookies, because c'mon, they're so easy. But as I struggled to finish six quarts of soup and a round of bagel chips for a soup swap, a no-scoop mega-cookie sounded appealing. So I blitzed the dough, rolled it out, painted it with an egg wash and drew a crosshatch of lines with a fork (optional but fun, and strangely reminiscent of high school doodling for some reason), and baked it up. And broke it up. Perhaps next time I'll manage to make it to the book signing as well.

Salted Butter Break-Ups

yields 1 5"x11" cookie, which can be broken into as many chunks as you desire

adapted from
Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan

1 3/4 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp coarse salt, plus more for sprinkling if desired
9 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 18 pieces
3-5 Tbsp cold water
1 egg yolk, plus additional water

Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor, and pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until you're left with pea-sized bits (in addition to some small flakes). Pulse the machine and add the water gradually, until it just barely forms a ball (this might not require the whole amount). The dough will be very soft.

Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, form it into a chubby square, and refrigerate for at least an hour (or a few days, if needed).

When the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with a silpat or parchment, or grease well. Let the dough soften at room temperature for a few minutes. Roll out (between plastic or waxed paper) into a rectangle that's about 5"x11", and transfer to the prepared sheet.

Beat the yolk with a splash of water, and paint it over the surface of the dough with a pastry brush (or, if you're me, a wadded up bit of the waxed paper you used to roll out the dough). Using the back of a fork, decorate the cookie in a crosshatch pattern by drawing the underside across in one direction, forming a series of tracks, then perpendicular to them. Sprinkle with additional salt, if you favor a pronounced salty-sweet flavor.

Bake the cookie for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is lightly golden (and slightly dark on the edges, if that's what you favor). It will be firm to the touch, but have a little spring when pressed in the center. Allow to cool to room temperature, then break it as you please, either before serving or at the table.


  1. I totally know what you mean. I did the same thing about ten years ago when I stood face to face with Joni Mitchell. I could not believe she was there, and could say nothing when she signed my notebook page I handed her... I would feel 10 times more nervous meeting Dorie- I had pangs of panic when she accepted my friend request on facebook! I've yet to see or read her new book, glad for this sneak peek!! (Not only are Dorie's recipes consistently great, she has such a conversational writing style, like she's speaking directly to me!)

  2. Joni Mitchell? *swoon* And now I totally want to fb stalk Dorie...